A Pastor's Successful Experience with ChristLife
“…And they hauled ashore the net, loaded with sizeable fish—153 of them!” (Jn 21:11)
—That was probably the number of known nations at the time.
Many times after baptizing at the Easter Vigil I would comment to my Director of Initiation that “next year I want 153”. (She would respond that if we get that many in the catechumenate I would have to pay her more.) Still, for many years we have been promoting evangelization and the Call to Discipleship within St. William Parish. When we heard about the ChristLife program, it seemed timely and an ideal fit. Here’s what we did:
- Met with Fr. Joe Horn, who has run this program several times.
- For several weeks prior, promoted it through the pastor’s column, bulletin announcements and pulpit announcements, and included petitions in the General Intercessions.
- Created our own large posters for the vestibules of church, with pockets for registration forms.
- Put large outdoor banners above the church entrances.
- Emailed invitations to over half the parish.
- Provided online registration.
- Presented the promo video the weekend before, right after Mass, followed by refreshments. (This was well-received.)
We had no idea how many would ultimately register; our guesses ranged between 25 and 250. Ultimately about 190 signed up, though we knew that not all would actually come or could make all seven sessions plus the retreat. (We didn’t even tell them there would be two more series, later.) We were taking bets on how many would actually show up at the first session. The program was on Tuesday evenings. After session five, on Saturday of Pentecost weekend, we ran the retreat, and the majority attended.
Each session consisted of:
- Dinner, at 6:45. People ate with their discussion groups, the same 7 or 8 people throughout. We considered these dinners essential for forming community. After the first couple sessions, we put out a basket for free-will donations—although we would have done better to put a basket at each table. We plan on continuing the dinners throughout the next series.
- The video presentation on a large screen. (We did some adaptation. For example, the first session was a little dry, so we took a brief break partway through; the last session, on sacraments, was done entirely by the pastor, as was the presentation on forgiveness during the retreat.)
- Group discussion. Each table had a facilitator. Most people really liked this portion and wanted more time allocated.
- Song and prayer before and after the session.
If someone missed a session, or even two, they would come a half-hour early the following week and we would show the video. The vast majority attended the entire series, were very enthusiastic, and are planning on coming to the next series in September. We counted how many actually showed up for the first session.
– Fr. Michael Savickas, Pastor